Sunday, 31 August 2008

There ain't no flies on Amy

At three years and four months, young Amy is displaying all the sharpness of a very sharp thing that has recently been sharpened.

As reported by her mother, my daughter, Emily:

Amy: Mummy, I want to go to the loo.

Emily: Well off you go then.

Amy: But I don't like going up the stairs by myself.

Emily: Why not?

Amy: Well come with me and I'll tell you on the way.


Thursday, 28 August 2008

Follow Your Heart - Keep to the Logic

I am currently reading: Incidents in the Rue Laugier, Anita Brookner. Penguin, 1996, ISBN 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Oh blessed serendipity when two posts collide in the outer blogsphere to produce a Gestalt outcome.

Calistro has posted on Writing Fear and the difficulty of choice she has to make concerning a character who, in her words, is a tiny bit 'out there'.

As I have blogged elsewhere, (half way down here to be precise), I find the creative spark is ignited by the process of writing. Events, remarks, even characters seemingly emerge on screen without so much as a by your leave, without invitation.

However, I reason, they have not emerged just to make mischief. They have a purpose, not always immediately apparent granted, but somewhere in my fecund subconscious their presence makes sense.

Let me clarify. A novel has its own internal logic, its own set of rules, and, so long as everything that happens within the novel fits to that logic, it matters not how crazy it may appear in the wider world. Think of Terry Pratchet's Disc World, think of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, think of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, think of any great novel.

Indeed, one can argue, that one purpose of a novel is to produce an alternative universe where life is not quite as we know it, Jim. A universe that informs us of our own by focusing on it through a distorting lens.

This internal logic of which I talk can be dictated by the view of the world presented by one character, by an individual event or series of events, by the whole world in which the book is set, or by its premise.

So long as a story is faithful to its own logic, so long as its characters remain true to themselves, then I am more than willing to believe that someone can wake up and believe themselves to be a beetle.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A Little Carp

I am currently reading: Elizabeth Costello, J. M. Coetzee, Vintage, 2004, ISBN 0 099 461927

I keep up to date with a number of blogs via my RSS reader, many of who are fellow writers struggling, as I do, with their work.

Writing is a lonely job, as J.M. Coetzee so beautifully illustrates in the book I am currently reading, Elizabeth Costello, so it is heartening to read of others' highs and lows. In those frequent moments when you lose confidence in your ability, it is comforting to know it is only part of the process; that you are not alone; that other writers experience the same.

Of course, the greatest joy is to read of another's ultimate triumph, which is to get his or her novel published. It is the carrot that keeps one going. I take genuine pleasure in some one else's success.

There is a however, however. My carp, and it is a very small one swimming around in a tiny fish bowl, is that once a person is published, their blog becomes less about writing, which is what I am interested in, and more about the whirl of reviews, readings, and other machinations of the marketing process.

I do understand the excitement, especially if it is one's first novel to be published. After the solipsistic exercise of writing, to discover that other people want to hear what you have created must be thrilling.

However, as I said, it is the journey that most interests me.

Having released my little carp into the wild, I am sure it will come back to bite me in the nether regions should I ever get published. I must beware that I don't get too carried away should that excitement ever come to pass.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

A Pile of Old Clothes

When I lived in Paris in the early nineties, I had an idea for a short story based on an actual experience. I told it to my girls, then aged about twelve and fourteen, and they were both enthusiastic.

I made an attempt and showed them the result. Rebecca, my first and most forthright critic, declared it to be disappointing compared to my original description.

It hurt. I suppose your first rejection always hurts. There were tears and tantrums. (I am talking about me.)

So I abandoned the idea till the other weekend when Rebecca came to stay and I boldly told her I was going to have another go.

Last week I wrote it. The story takes place within a certain time frame, an hour, so I attempted to write it within that time. It eventually took me an hour and a half to write the 1,400 words.

I was very excited about the finished product. I sent it to Rebecca for her comment.

Her reply came, 'It's good but a little bit anti-climatic'. Or to translate to her usual, more concise, terminology, 'the ending's crap'.

Time has toughened me. There were no tears this time. I didn't stamp my foot once or jump up and down, screaming, "I hate you!" I reflected on her comment in a mature manner, mulled it over, gave it time. She was right, of course. (There, I've said it, despite the pain it has caused me.)

So I revisited the ending. It has made the story so much better. I sent it off to Rebecca and awaited her reply. I was nervous as a new father, pacing up and down my room, smoking cigar after cigar.

'10 out of 10,' came the reply. The champagne corks did serious damage to the plasterwork.

Now I have a short story, approved by Rebecca, that I want to get published somewhere. Any ideas? It is of a spooky genre if that helps. The title is A Pile of Old Clothes.

PS My other daughter, Emily, together with her partner, Danny, and children, Amy and ten-week old Katie, came for the day on Sunday. It was a joy to see them all.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Yikes! What Japes!

Just a quick post to lure the inquisitive and those that thirst after enlightenment and the meaning of publishing to a new blog I have found. It is written by Lynn Price who says of herself that she is, 'editorial director for Behler Publications and author of the award-winning book, Donovan's Paradigm. My purpose is to share information, advice, observations of various things that cross my desk, and get a little silly sometimes'

She has recently posted a YouTube video that finally reveals the truth about publishing. It is hilarious.

The blog is less hilarious but highly informative.

Post here; blog here.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Only the Gulls are Content.

I have had the most productive weekend. (My weekends being Sunday and Monday because of work obligations.)

My darling elder daughter, Rebecca, who is the most intelligent and beautiful person in the whole universe apart from her sister, Emily, who matches her in every respect except for her height, (and the speed at which Emily can talk, which is fast, and we are talking seriously fast), stayed Saturday night. Sue, my other friend, (I only have two) stayed Sunday night.

So, apart from domestic chitchat, we had lots of discussions about my novel. It was really useful in helping me work out the shape and structure of what I have to do. And now I have a crystal clear idea.

I am so excited my fingers are pricking.

I can't wait to get it written. I know I set a deadline of my birthday, 2nd December, but feel sure I will complete the first draft well before. I know myself. Once I get going, I will work long hours till it is done. (I must remember to eat.)

I did have a working title for the book, but both Rebecca and Sue thought it was crap. I took this as a negative response.

However, I was just chatting to Rebecca on the phone, saying how I wanted to find a title, she suggested waiting till I had completed the book, and I replied that Caroline seems to arrive at excellent titles early on which can only help in terms of publicising the book. I said that any ideas she had for a title would be most welcome.

We end the conversation.

Two seconds later she phones back. She was just reading something and there was this phrase that seemed so appropriate. With the minimum of adjustment, it is.

So the title of my book is… drum roll… small fanfare

Only the Gulls are Content

Buy it now while stocks last! And big kisses to Rebecca.

Monday, 11 August 2008

We have Lift Off. (Metaphorically Speaking.)

I have opened my Metaphors & Similes blog with a philosophical piece that came as something of surprise to me.

As I have written, it was inspired by a post by Aqua, who wrote about the significance of metaphors and similes in terms of her coping with her illness. She suffers from Chronic Major Depressive Disorder.

When I originally mooted the idea of the blog on these tropes, I had thought it would be confined to literary examples, however, I think it no bad thing to start with a general discussion about the broader role of metaphors & similes.

What I have to say is intended to be polemical so I do hope people will respond. I don't mind if you tell me I am talking rubbish. My daughters always tell me I talk rubbish and who am I to argue with them?

However, the blog is intended to concentrate on the literary usage of these tropes and I hope people will contribute with their favourite examples - be they good or bad.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Inch by Inch. (2.54 Cm by 2.54 Cm.)

I am currently reading: Poliakoff Plays: One, Stephen Poliakoff, Methuen, 1989. ISBN 0 413 624609

I have discovered a new burst of energy this week. A new resolution. A fresh determination. A can do attitude.

In short I have been working consistently on my book.

It still feels like climbing the north face of the Eiger in the dark during a total eclipse of the moon. However, with the trusty torch of determination in one hand and the glittering ice pick of resolution in the other, I am making progress. (Shades of Jonathan Aitken. I just hope I am not heading for a similar pratfall.)

Little sparks of inspiration light my way. I walk to work with my head filled with the conversations of my protagonists. I suddenly freeze, with hand outstretched to pick up a tin of tomatoes in Waitrose, as I discover a hitherto hidden facet of one of my characters. Somebody makes an innocent comment and I find I have resolved a structural issue.

As for the writing process itself, it remains slow, painful, and filled with moments of despondency. However, I can see, perhaps for the first time, the shape of a complete novel.

So I have decided to put in abeyance all doubts and just concentrate on completing it. After all, I reason with sageness of Socrates, there will be nothing to praise if there is nothing to praise.

So my resolution is to complete the first draft by my birthday. By 2nd December. There, I have made a public commitment.

After thought:
What I really need is a gentle dominatrix - if that is not an oxymoron. I used to have one such when I worked in advertising. Her name was/is Mary Hazell, Head of Production.

Dear Mary could wield the whip so gently yet effectively that no diva in the creative department, no matter how recalcitrant or difficult, ever missed a deadline. With kind words and flattery, but always with the whip in view, she could coax copy out of a hand turned to stone.

(Picture of typewriter © C. Sommerer & L. Mignonneau)

Monday, 4 August 2008

In Cold Blood - Metaphor?

Would you say that 'in cold blood' itself constitutes a metaphor?

I ask because of the quote taken from the book of that title by Truman Capote that I use as a signature for this blog.

The metaphor being that heat alludes to one of the four humours, i.e. choleric, or hot; the one of the four that equates to violence, vengefulness, or bad-temper, so an act committed in cold blood insinuates the opposite, i. e. pre-meditated, calm, and unemotional. Thus 'in cold blood' is a not a direct description but a metaphor for an attitude or state of mind.

If this is so, then those searching for a metaphor of 'in cold blood', as people do, are wasting their time for they are looking for a metaphor of a metaphor.

One could, I suppose, arrive at a Proustian laden metaphor upon a metaphor:

'He struck her down in cold blood that was chill as an icicle broken from the roof of the only chalet located at 5,000m on Mount Everest, stored in a deep freeze, and flown the 6,827 miles home to Milton Keynes to be used to make the perfect dry martini. He was that cool. She, on the other hand, as her life blood drained away, was merely cooling."

(Though this, of course, is a simile.)